Beauty is a nonviolent experience of near death, a warning that one is fragile, like everything else in the universe.
Timothy Morton, Realist Magic
Liane Lang’s project Touch Stone engages with beauty and memory in the landscape, with its history of human and non human activity, through materials and objects that tell their story. The residue of centuries, millennia, eons, visible and imagined, of the hard work of people and of nature, appear like fragments of monuments, incomplete archaeological evidence, standing together ambiguously and sometimes at cross purposes.
Lang’s use of stones, from the gorgeous glass-like crystal slices to the broken Carrara marble headstones, the limestone quarry debris to the Neolithic stone circle, collate a sense of nature that can encompass all these things. The works point to shared characteristics and differing intentions, similar activities with radically different outcomes. Lang deliberately chooses materials that are connected but do not comfortably exist together. The ecologically unsound surface depicts the re-wilded or re-natured subject, the cement factory, the chunk of road, the collapsed mine, the holloway. Wood and concrete, iron and tarmac, lead, cotton and silk, form ligaments that hold together a multitude of experiences, invention and subjugation, improvement and destruction, beauty and death.
Many of the works have a human presence, glimpsed through a tree or behind a boulder. The figure is allowed to occupy, commune with and touch the world, a fleeting moment of ecstatic existence, joyous and immersive. But Lang twists this into another contemplation of the memorial object: The figures we see are casts, sculptures she makes in the studio, like fragments of statuary. The memorial is literal, the figure in sculpture, an at- tempt to gesture to a distant future: I was here, once lithe and lovely. Lang balances between lived time, momentary pleasure and the evidence of deep time, fossilised layers, the fate of all things once living. The ecological challenges are implicit in this work, poetically posing questions about the value and meaning of what we do and who we are.
Images seen here of the exhibition installed at the Maltings in Wirksworth during the 2022 Wirksworth Festival.